Friday, April 11, 2014

Let’s Make it Less Messy, More Beautiful. On Average, Brutiful- My Messy Beautiful

 I have a headache. I think because of this. This essay. This chance and opportunity is stressing me out. So naturally, headache. Of course it could also be because I haven’t slept through the night in almost eleven years. Or because every time the baby nurses he sounds like an angry badger, and I’m afraid he’s going to bite off my nipple. Or it could be because I worry my son will end up in prison, even though he’s just eight. And I’m worried about Jake Ballard and Olivia, but mostly Jake Ballard because, hot. So very hot.

But mostly I think it is this. This wonderful opportunity to showcase my shiz on a greater scale. And I’ve got a headache. Because I’m unhappy with what I have written. It feels…messy. It feels, while completely true and honest, forced. Simultaneously not what I typically write, but so often what I usually think.

So I have done my best. Languished for weeks and missed self-imposed submittal deadlines. But since now there is a headache involved, I need to Elsa the shit outta this essay and just Let. It. GO. So here it is. In honor of my sweet, beautiful, tween of a first born, I give you this…

Let’s Make it Less Messy, More Beautiful

On Average, Brutiful- My Messy Beautiful

Although it seems like a lifetime ago, I can vividly remember being a mother to one child. And holy mother of four children did I think it was the most difficult thing in the world; to parent a single kid. Sweet, sweet Mary was I wrong. I mean, yes, there were challenges with my first born. There was her tongue tie and my bleeding nipples (clearly my nipples are a hot-button issue for me). There was her complete and total inability to sleep unless being held, and my sheer exhaustion. There was her creaky bedroom floor, which woke her all the time. Every. Single. Time. There was my paranoia that I was doing it all wrong and her impatience with me to get it right. Those early years of being a mom to one, being a mom to her, were hard.

Thankfully, with each child I have birthed, I have learned that cartoons before school and fifty cents to stop talking and iPods and baby wipe baths and ravioli from a can, are not terrible child rearing strategies. They are necessary parenting tactics. Used for sheer survival. So as a mother, certainly I have changed. But I’m not sure if was for the better.

Regardless, in thinking about my Messy, Beautiful life; writing about being a mom and how it is so inexplicably brutiful, I am embarrassed to admit that it did not immediately occur to me to write the story of her. The story of us.

My gut instinct was to write about her younger brother…because holy hell that kid has issues. Then I thought I’d write about myself…because holy hell, I have issues. Kiddo, you were my third or fourth topic; lately and increasingly you are so often overlooked.  I realize that far too frequently I do not truly see you, even though that’s not how it always was. Certainly it is not how I ever imagined it would be.
Truthfully, in the beginning she was my everything. Four twenty six months she was my world. And now ten and a half years later, I feel as though I don’t really know her at all, that I have lost sight of her and our relationship. And I know she can feel this disconnect. I can see the hurt in her eyes, can feel her distance. We jokingly refer to her Dad as the dream killer, but really, what is worse is that I see her before me, and still I brush her aside; for there is always a younger child who needs me more immediately than her.

If she is excited to share a story, I quickly become distracted by the chaos that is almost always circling around us. If she begs to relay what is happening in her latest Greek Mythology book, my eyes glaze over almost instantly, because I’m lost in a flash or just simply tired. I swear she is smarter than me, and that makes both of us uneasy. I try to help her with her homework, but goddamn, fifth grade math is hard; we both always end up in tears. There are far too many days when I kiss her goodnight and wrack my brain, imploring myself to remember whether or not we interacted at all.

I drive her to and from activities all week long, and we have so many opportunities to talk. So many chances for us to learn more about each other, and yet she buries her head in her iPod or latest favorite book, or she gazes out the window lost in the music and her own magical thoughts. Instead of pressing her…beseeching her to talk to me and share her day, tell me what worries and scares her, and what brings her the most joy…I enjoy the silence. It feels as though our relationship is based on missed opportunities, and I blame myself.

I have stopped telling her that she is beautiful and smart and funny. Not because she is no longer those things, but because I have become so wrapped up in telling her to get her socks, or brush her teeth or be kind to her brother, or close-the-mother-flipping-door-because-we-do-not-live-in-a-barn! I have stopped cheering her on from the sidelines, not because I am no longer proud of her accomplishments, but because my throat hurts from yelling at and seizing teachable moments with and redirecting her younger siblings. All. The. Time. I have stopped hugging her and pulling her into my lap, not because I do not want to feel her close, but because my lap is so often full with her younger and much whinier sister, or her constantly-at-the-boob baby brother and because I am so often simply touched out.

So much of my time is spent trying to keep the baby from licking someone’s feet, or taking scissors from her sister, or talking her brother off a ledge, I worry that I will let her disappear; fade away, before I even got to know all of her. I worry that it has already happened. Undoubtedly I have let the little girl who chased butterflies in the back yard and picked dandelions during her softball games slip through my fingers.

She is the kid whose needs are brushed aside because the needs of her siblings are louder, more immediate, more physical. Life is louder than her. It is hard to ignore a screaming baby, or a diaper leaking poop, or a boy who is destroying his room out of frustration. But the quiet, shy girl standing before me, the beautiful one with hope in her blue eyes; the one who just wants her mom to notice her? She can be brushed aside.

I wish she could feel the thoughts I have for her inside my head. Because then she would always know how very much I love her. All of the time. I am desperate for her to know, to truly understand, because I don't demonstrate my love for her enough.

And I can't believe that in less time then she’s been alive she’ll be off to college (via work-study, and scholarships, and financial aid, because holy lack of a college fund). She'll be on her own, and she won't be mine anymore, but was she ever to begin with? Some days I truly and selfishly wish those days would hurry up and arrive. Because tween. But most days, and every night when I kiss her sleeping head goodnight one last time, I want to stop time. Or maybe even roll back the clock to an easier time, to the time when I thought it was so hard. To a time when she was my everything and she knew it, she felt it, she blossomed because of it.

I just want to keep her here with me so I can do better, be better at being her mother. I want her to still want to hold my hand, and give me a kiss at the bus stop, and hear what I think, and ask me which earrings I like better. I want her to wear mismatched shoes, and an arm full of bracelets. To ask me if she should wear a ponytail or braid. To still want me to scratch her back every night before bed. I want her to tell me she loves me, and that she will see me in the morning; no matter how appallingly I fail at being her mom.
  This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project - To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE. And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE


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